Central Bank of Kenya building in Nairobi. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The 2013 Jubilee manifesto identified 23 key areas, among them, elimination of ethnic division, keeping Kenya safe and secure from terrorists, making the country a strong trading partner in Africa, securing Kenya’s legacy as a sporting nation and celebrating its culture.

Also envisioned was the plan to build a healthier Kenya and empower youth and women, among other promises. Uhuru’s government had big infrastructure projects lined up, and nothing was going to stop it, not even huge financing gaps.

This has, however, led to rampant corruption, wastage of public funds and excessive borrowing that has crowded out valuable resources for essential services.

It started like prudent borrowing to build roads, upgrade the railway line, ports and energy projects but quickly turned into a borrowing spree from the West and China. The rising debt levels in Kenya are already causing great concern. There have been many changes since the Jubilee Government took charge of the country and the Public Finance Act was amended.

The changes by Parliament enabled the government to borrow and make exceptions to the Constitution which requires all money borrowed by the government to be processed through the Consolidated Fund; the government’s primary account.

Up to now, Kenya is roiled by a spate of corruption scandals involving government officials who allegedly siphoned millions of shillings from state coffers using fake tenders and suppliers, or even spending without the approval of Parliament.

The rise in debt has been alarming. As of May 2022, banking institutions were the biggest holders of the domestic debt at 49 per cent, followed by pension funds (31.93 per cent), Insurance Companies (6.96 per cent), and Parastatals at 5.78 per cent, while others hold 6.32 per cent of domestic debt.

The debt levels have surged to Sh9 trillion from Sh2 trillion when Uhuru was elected. Therefore, the debt shadow will hang over Kenya’s next presidents.

For the taxpayer, the repayment burden will be handed over to future generations for decades to come. That being the case, when will Kenya ever become free from such huge debts?

Now that Kenya ranks high in corruption indexes and weak governance, has weakened consumer spending that has led to rise in unemployment and poverty, how can its citizens be assured of a better tomorrow? Will the yet-to-be-formed government deliver better results on debt payments, or will its borrowing worsen?

Letter from Emmanuel Rono, Maseno